A Summary of Brain Games for the Elderly

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By Katie Greene

Whenever the topic of brain training games comes up, particularly to combat the onset of aging-related dementia, we like to point to this well-researched article. It contains a wealth of information, and a large list of games and activities that are truly beneficial in brain training. However, it is a rather lengthy read, so in this article we are going to summarize its’ more salient points.

Brain Training Circumvents, Not Prevents, Dementia

It’s well known that there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, but it is entirely possible that dementia symptoms can be circum- vented. This is not the same as prevention – it is rather a method of redirecting information through your brain, so that informa- tion avoids traversing damaged neural pathways.

Imagine your brain as a map of roads, forming billions of inter- sections. What dementia does is damage the intersections, pre- venting information from flowing freely throughout the brain. This can affect your speech, memories, and job performance. While seniors were expected to retire by 65 in previous gener- ations, modern lifespan has increased the work and retirement age. What brain training is believed to do is form new intersec- tions (neural synapses), which information can take as alterna- tive routes. As long as you are constantly training your brain and learning new information, you are forming new neural synapses.

New Information Matters Most

The important part is learning new information. It’s been proven that memory-based games that rely on recalling pat- terns, or simple mathematics and word problems, don’t form any new neural synapses. Yes, it’s “brain training”, but it’s the equivalent of bicep curls with 10lb weights. You do not form new neural synapses by recalling information you already know, just like you don’t build new muscle with weights that are too light for you.

Thus, the best type of brain training is when you actively pursue new knowledge. Learning a new language, for example, has tremendous benefits. You are rewiring your brain in a new way to communicate. Learning history, science, a musical instrument – anything where your brain processes new information is the secret to true brain training.

While you don’t necessarily need games to learn history, games make learning more fun. When you’re having fun, you’re more engaged in the activity. That is why brain training games are recommended.

So to summarize, things like memory games, Cross- word puzzles, and anything that involves information you already know, is not ideal brain training. Those activ- ities may help you awaken your brain for the day, but you must actively pursue new knowledge to truly counter the onset of dementia. For a much deeper explanation with plenty of links to proper brain-training games, you can consult the article we linked at the beginning of this one. L